Your Autonomic Nervous System:  How Does Stress Affect It? 

Earth Day Yoga

Your autonomic nervous system may not be something that you have given a great deal of thought to and why should you, it’s on automatic pilot.

However having a little knowledge about how it works and how stress affects it, is a good starting place to understanding our natural responses to stress.

It will also give you an understanding of how excessive stress and anxiety can cause autonomic overload.

What is your Autonomic Nervous System?

heart rate

It is by far the largest and most important part of our whole nervous system. It is the part of the system that is constantly on autopilot and is controlling many of systems without us having to think about it.


What it controls:

  • Our breathing
  • It regulates our heart rate
  • It tells our body to sweat when we are too hot

In fact it controls every part of our physical functions every second of every day. Coordinating every system using its pre programmed rules and responding to changing circumstances constantly. 

Such as:

  • When we run, it increases our heart and breathing rate
  • When we hear a load unexpected noise, we jump, as our body is prepared to flee.

How Does Stress Affect Your Autonomic Nervous System?

The system also uses all our senses to determine how our body should react, so our eyes and ears, nose and sense of touch are all inputting data all the time to help the system control our bodies so that they are working optimally. All of this information of course is filtered by the brain and the brain unlike the nervous system also thinks and this is where problems can arise.

So our thinking patterns and perceptions of those thoughts can affect the nervous system. If we perceive something to be a threat it will trigger the flight of fight mechanism, flooding the system with chemicals to prepare us. But if our perceptions are wrong, this constant release of chemicals will overcome the nervous system, causing autonomic overload.

This overload will in itself make our brains more sensitive to the stress response and cause it to fire off more easily next time. A vicious circle begins.

So how we respond to stress in our lives can dramatically affect our overall health if we respond in a negative way too often.

So What Can You Do About This?

Ok, I hear you say, but how do I stop myself from causing autonomic overload?

The good news is that you are already doing something about it, by finding out about stress and how it affects your health and happiness. Knowledge is power and having a good understanding of what you are dealing with is essential for a successful outcome.

Keep reading the other sections about stress and then when you feel you know as much as you can, you will be ready to move on and discover the various ways you can manage stress in your life using relaxation techniques and therapies.

Congratulations on taking your first step to stress relief. Now keep taking one more step after the other, you’ll reach your destination before you know it.

› Autonomic Nervous System

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